15 Jul Coronavirus: ‘Running out of options’ – Baby girl may need lifetime of therapy as pandemic delays surgery | UK News
The mother of a baby with a cleft palate says she has “sleepless nights” worrying about the long-term damage to her daughter’s speech because her operation has been cancelled.
Stephanie Wallace says she is a “very concerned and anxious mother who wants answers”.
Her 11-month-old daughter Sophia was due to have surgery in June but the operation was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mrs Wallace said: “The hospital in which she was supposed to have her operation is now closing 14 of their 20 operating theatres for refurbishment over the next three months, putting a further delay on all cleft babies under their care.
“This lack of forward planning or contingency means lots of cleft babies could have lifelong speech problems and many other issues due to this.
“The question has to be asked: what is the reason for closing more than half of the theatres at a time when the backlog of operations is so high?”
Around 1,200 babies are born with a cleft each year in the UK according to the Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA), which estimates around 45% of these babies will have a cleft palate.
Mrs Wallace worries that the longer her daughter’s surgery is delayed, the greater the risk of long-term damage to her speech, which will then require long-term therapy.
“Obviously, as a mother, you want the best for your child. And, you know, I don’t want her to have a speech problem.
“So for me it was just upsetting really. And, you know, I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights just worrying about her.
“And you’re kind of preparing yourself for that first nine months, thinking she’s going to have an operation soon and then all of a sudden it’s gone and you don’t know when that’s going to happen,” she added.
Mrs Wallace said she was told Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, where her daughter was supposed to be undergoing surgery, is closing 14 of its 20 operating theatres.
She said: “Are there failings in these theatres? Why is there no contingency? Innocent children could be at risk of a life of speech impediments because the trust have let them down.
“Are we postcode victims as other hospitals will start to work through their backlog of five months but this trust is closing for a further three months.
“I am a very anxious and concerned mother who wants answers and is running out of options before her daughter starts talking and the delay causes a lifetime of therapy,” she said.
The Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust confirmed some of its operating theatres will be closing temporarily.
In a statement it said: “Some operating theatres will be closed at the John Radcliffe Hospital’s West Wing between 20 July and 25 October 2020.
“The air handling equipment in the theatre complex needs to be replaced. This work needs to be carried out.
“In order to maintain as much emergency, urgent and elective work as possible, some services will be relocated to our other hospitals, where they will dovetail with other existing lists.”
There are 3,834,571 people on NHS elective treatment waiting lists, according to the latest figures published in May 2020. Of these, 26,029 patients have been waiting more than a year.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, an organisation that represents NHS trusts, said it could take up to 12 months before hospitals get back to where they were before the pandemic.
She said: “It’s a really challenging picture for the future. Before the pandemic, the NHS was already facing real challenges in terms of levels of demand going up and workforce shortages.
“We’re in a situation now where coronavirus has really set this off course so we need to get this back on course and regain the ground it has lost.
“We surveyed our member trusts and some of them felt it was going to be up to a year before they could return to their normal business pre-COVID-19,” she said.